Running Game Needs A Tune-Up

Despite the presence of running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes -- the same offensive backfield tandem that helped lead the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl XLI title -- the team struggled to get much of a running game going last season.

Indianapolis finished next-to-last last in the NFL in rushing yards, averaging 79.6 yards per game. The only other time in the last 10 seasons the Colts finished out of the top 20 in rushing was 2002, when running back Edgerrin James was returning from a season-ending knee injury he had suffered in 2001. The Colts that season finished 26th in the NFL in rushing.

Chad Simpson, Mike Hart and Lance Ball will compete for playing time behind Addai
Harry How/Getty Images

Part of the problem was the amount of upheaval along the team's offensive line, where injuries sidelined key players such as center Jeff Saturday and offensive guard Ryan Lilja. Still, for the Colts' offense to be as productive as it should be, the running game has to return to being a positive force in 2009.

First-year head coach Jim Caldwell is intent on fixing the problem as soon as possible.

"You can't always just pinpoint one position, one particular issue," Caldwell said recently. "Otherwise, it would be very easy to fix. Often times, there is a combination of things, that you're just not consistent enough across the board. That's the key. We have to get back to the point where we're very, very consistent in our running game."

As of now, Addai will lead a group of running backs that includes Chad Simpson, Mike Hart, and Lance Ball. Rhodes is an unrestricted free agent and is currently on the market. He could return to the Colts, however, as could Clifton Dawson, who has been on and off the roster the last two seasons.

Hart, though, is still recovering from knee surgery after suffering a season-ending injury against Baltimore in the fifth game of the 2008 season.

"What does that take (to improve the running game)? I think it takes work in every single area, whether it's in the way in which we handle our fundamentals from a blocking standpoint, or whether it's a ball-carrying issue, or whether it's an audible issue," Caldwell said.

"All of those things have to be considered, and that's what we're working hard on this offseason, getting ourselves in position so that we are as productive as we used to be in previous years in terms of the running game. Everybody kind of points at one individual, often times at one position. It's certainly not the case. There are a lot of folks who have to do things right in order for us to be successful in terms of the running game."

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